- Diana's bedroom
- Hippolyta and the merits of fighting and war
- History lesson -- the Greek Gods
- Ares and Zeus (but no goddesses)
- George Perez Gods and Mortals
- Musical hints of Superman
- Diana begins her training
- Many gifts from the Gods
Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @derbykid @wondersyd
Myth of redemptive violence: https://www.ravenfoundation.org/wonder-woman-myth-redemptive-violence-ravencast/
Lakoff paternal vs. maternal: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=493615864
So let’s get right into Scene 3, which is in Diana’s bedroom. This set was designed by Aline Bonetto and she said in the art and making of the film book that she was inspired by a recurring shell motif, and she also worked in some hints of a shield. The shell motif is a concept that Bonetto embraced because the Amazons are from the sea and are very naturalistic as a culture, so shells seemed very fitting. Shells can be protective so they were used in designing some of the Amazonian armor, but they also sometimes have spiral shapes, and so Bonetto incorporated spirals into this bedroom and as into the throne room and the tower with the gifts of the gods, which we’ll see in the next scene. The shell also connects with Botticelli’s famous painting of the birth of Venus, and Venus, the Roman god of love, is equivalent to Aphrodite in the Greek pantheon, who is often linked very closely to the Amazons and to Wonder Woman. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
The characters in Scene 3 are Diana and Hippolyta, which is a nice narrowing of focus after briefly getting introduced to the full array of Amazons in Scene 2. We can immediately tell that this is bedtime for Young Diana, and she is still excited about the possibility of starting her training. It’s nice to see Hippolyta here -- even though she’s the queen, she takes on the direct parenting duties of bedtime. And as a parent myself of young children, I can really relate to the bedtime routine, and I think many other parents can, as well. The excited child who has something on their mind that is making them restless and eager for the next day, and the calm parent trying to get them to settle down and rest, and also trying to possibly temper some out-of-scope dreams. A bedtime story is also a very relatable event, so I think this is a nice way to expand the mother-daughter relationship here at the beginning of the movie and to help the audience relate to their own experiences either as a parent or a child.
Their interactions continue right from the last line we heard in Scene 2, when Hippolyta said there would be no training. Diana is still pressing the issue. “What if I promise to be careful? What if I didn’t use a sword?” And of course, they’re not just talking about learning to fight. The subtext is that Young Diana wants to grow up -- she wants to be like the Amazons instead of the only child on the island. She is excited at the prospect of Antiope being willing to start her training, but Hippolyta does not want to face what the future will be for Diana, instead she wants to keep Diana as her precious little girl. And Hippolyta of course knows much more about what the future holds than Young Diana does. Diana doesn’t know it yet that it is not actually her destiny to be like the other Amazons. She is different and will eventually take a different role in the world.
With regard to Hippolyta’s protectiveness, this is a connection to another DCEU origin story -- Man of Steel. The Kents in that movie loved their son and feared the ways the world might react to him and what they’d do to him once he was publicly exposed. Martha wanted to keep him as her precious son rather than sharing him with the world, and Jonathan knew it was going to be a huge burden to be Superman so he wanted to make sure Clark waited until he was ready. They were protective of their child just like Hippolyta is -- in fact, Hippolyta may be even moreso because the Amazons are a warrior society, so she is keeping Diana from what would be seen as a normal development into a fighter, whereas the Kents actually were trying to give Clark more normalcy rather than having his super powers be exposed in his childhood. Furthermore, Jonathan Kent, as in the original Superman comics, didn’t want Clark to restrain his powers forever -- just until he was mature enough to deal with everything that it would entail. But Hippolyta actually gives some indications that she would want to keep Diana’s true powers hidden and keep her on the island perhaps indefinitely. She tries to have a state of denial about Ares and the fact that Diana will have to fulfill her destiny eventually.
In response to Young Diana’s appeals, Hippolyta responds with a fairly broad and meaningful statement: “Fighting doesn’t make you a hero.” And this is coming from someone who, we are about to find out, did more than her share of fighting when she led the Amazons out of Man’s enslavement. So Hippolyta is a very capable and accomplished fighter, but she does not view that as the thing that makes her a hero. Perhaps it is the cause for which one fights that makes you a hero -- in other words, it’s not the fighting but rather what you’re fighting for that makes you a hero. We might also consider that what makes a hero is not fighting but avoiding a fight -- making peace, when possible. Blessed are the peacemakers, so to speak. I think, though, that the Amazons are not against fighting itself --- they will certainly do it when they have to, but they fight with honor and with purpose, and like Patty Jenkins says about Wonder Woman as a character, they are not the aggressors and they do not revel in the violence.
Later in the movie, we’re going to see a lot of the carnage and brutality of war. We talked in our themes and characters episode about the theme that war is bad, and so this line from Hippolyta is setting up that theme a bit. She is inviting us to take a critical look at fighting, at warfare itself, and to not glorify but to look at the true cost and to try to look for the true heros. In a way, aspects of this movie take on the myth of redemptive violence. Under this myth, there is good violence and bad violence, and the good guys can commit violence to stop the bad guys and it’s okay. It’s like the idea that a good guy with a gun is the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun. Hippolyta seems to be planting the seeds of doubt about this myth of redemptive violence. And Diana will take awhile to realize that victory is not as simple as just killing the bad guy. This is discussed in a podcast from the Raven Foundation. And we would add that by the end, yes, she does still kill the bad guy, but the difference is that when she kills him at the end, she does so not thinking that it will make the world a perfect place, but that it is her divine destiny to do so and she is simply giving uninfluenced free will back to mankind. So it’s a bit nuanced here, but we’ll try to trace this idea of redemptive violence throughout our analysis.
This line about fighting not making you a hero also relates to the main theme of Love as a powerful force for good. We could read between the lines that if fighting doesn’t make you a hero, maybe it is love that can make you a hero. And this might connect to Diana’s 100 years between World War 1 and BvS. Diana, during that time, may have played an important role in helping Man’s World but she did it without donning her costume and fighting.
In Scene 3 though, young Diana presses her case. “Just a shield then. No sharp edges.” This is a funny line, but it’s also meaningful -- it re-emphasizes the notion of Diana as a powerful yet non-aggressive hero. A shield is defensive, and we have already heard Antiope talk about training Diana at least to defend herself, which also aligns with the non-aggressive aspect of Diana’s character. Will Diana take the fight to the enemy? Yes, when it’s necessary, but she does not initiate any of the conflicts. She attacks the Germans after they invade Themyscira’s shores, she takes out the Germans on the front after they’ve enslaved civilians and fired on her compatriots. She takes out Ludendorff and Ares after they’ve killed countless people.
It’s also fun to notice that Diana here says “no sharp edges,” when later in the movie she will be surprised to find out that her primary sharp edge, the godkiller sword, ends up being useless against Ares. And this is also kind of cool thinking back to the earlier line, “What if I didn’t use a sword?” Because in the end, to defeat Ares, she doesn’t use a sword.
But continuing forward, Hippolyta sighs and is done having this debate about training. She gently says, “You are the most precious thing in the world to me.” Later, when Diana is leaving the island, she will also call her her greatest joy. Hippolyta then refers to the story about wanting Diana so much that she sculpted her from clay and begged Zeus to give her life. Diana says she’s heard this story before. And this story of the clay goes back to the original comics by William Moulton Marston and the George Perez reboot in the 1980s. A slight difference is that Hippolyta in the movie talks about Zeus bringing life to the clay but in the various comic iterations it was either Aphrodite who brought life or a bunch of the gods together, each giving a gift of abilities as they blessed the clay child. A key difference is that those old comic book stories do not have any men involved in the creation of Diana, but Hippolyta’s version of the story in the movie does involve Zeus. And also, we should mention that this idea of the clay origin being a false story and the truth being that Diana is a demigod, with parents Hippolyta and Zeus, actually comes from the New 52 version of the comic book in 2011. That was written by Brian Azzarello and his run dealt quite a bit with Diana’s run-ins with her divine family. I, personally, like the demigoddess angle as an explanation for her powers and I also like how the New 52 and the Wonder Woman film keep a connection to the clay story.
So here in the film, we see the clay story as one that Hippolyta has told her young daughter, so as the audience, we don’t know if we should actually believe it as the true story of her birth. It could be something like the storks where we lie to kids for some reason before we want them to know the truth. In Hippolyta’s case, she does have a reason to lie because she doesn’t want Diana’s true purpose to come to pass, and she thinks that the less Diana knows, the harder it will be for Ares to find her. The fact that Diana does not know her true origin adds another aspect of naivete to her character -- she not only has a sheltered life and no knowledge of Man’s World, but she also lacks knowledge about herself and her true purpose.
So in this interaction, Diana doesn’t know about her destiny; she believes that her mother is simply worried that she will hurt herself. And Diana is also still excited about the idea of the warriors. So she really perks up when Hippolyta mentions a new story about Hippolyta’s “days of battle.” Hippolyta grabs a big book from the other side of the room, and she tries to temper Diana’s excitement about stories of war. “War is nothing to hope for.” This line pairs nicely with the earlier line about fighting not making someone a hero, and we get a sense of a consistent message from Hippolyta to her daughter that violence should be avoided, not glorified. And as we’ll see later in the movie, war is very destructive to the earth and to people, and as we’ll see in her history lesson, war is the enemy as it is embodied in Ares himself.
Before we get into the history lesson itself, we should point out that all of these interactions and the story to follow may be promoting in Diana a skewed notion of war as black and white. She is initially enthralled with warriors but then Hippolyta says that war is bad. In both cases, it’s a black-and-white framing of the issue rather than acknowledging the complexities of a necessary war. The history lesson may also lead Diana to believe that people are good unless they are corrupted by an evil force --- again, black and white. And Steve’s initial interactions with Diana will feed into this -- Steve calls the Germans the bad guys, and then in the alleyway says that it’s the bad guy convention. He casts things as good versus bad. This makes war seem justified, and it makes the goals seem very clear. But throughout the movie, we will see her have to deal with the disruption of her simplistic ideas of good and evil, and Ares will confront her very directly with them at the end.
Okay, so let’s get into the Greek history lesson about the gods of Mount Olympus. First of all, they chose a very unique visual way in which to present the history. They do these beautiful, moving paintings in a sort of Italian Renaissance style which, for the Western audience, subconsciously connects to all the religious imagery we’ve grown up with. This unique visual form of backstory is kind of like how Man of Steel had the liquid geo when Jor-El was describing the history of Krypton to Kal-El. Both Man of Steel and Wonder Woman involved a parent describing the history to their child, the main character of the film, and both used a visual device that was inspired by the cultures they were describing.
Images presented in the Wonder Woman story are reminiscent of paintings such as The Fall of Phaeton by Peter Raul Rubens or some works by Nicolas Poussin (The Rape of the Sabine Women, The Triumph of Neptune) and Luca Giordano (Conversion of St. Paul, Triumph of the Medici in the Clouds of Olympus, The Fall of the Rebel Angels) -- the latter of which was also referenced in Lex Luthor’s father’s study. The use of classic art in Wonder Woman also ties into Diana’s modern involvement with the Louvre Museum. And the slight movement in the paintings might be like the childlike imagination of Diana as she brings the pictures to life in her mind.
So we have these beautiful moving representations of history in both Man of Steel and Wonder Woman, and they make for a rich universe encompassing the characters. It will be exciting to get yet another history lesson in the upcoming Justice League, when we learn about the mother boxes that were left on Earth ages ago and we see how, possibly, the humans and Amazons and Atlanteans came together to repel the alien invaders.
So although we love these connections between films in the DCEU, let’s stay on point. Here in Wonder Woman, I believe the main artist behind these paintings was Houston Sharp. And it’s cool to notice that the first wide image actually has the entire story encompassed in it. There’s Zeus up top on Mount Olympus with the other gods, the Amazons are coming out of the water on the bottom left, mankind is down along the bottom of the picture, and then there’s the final blow between Zeus and Ares on the top right. So the whole thing is basically laid out, but we will zoom in on certain aspects as Hippolyta describes the story, and they always bring in just a subtle amount of motion.
So first we’re going to just run through the history lesson from Hippolyta really quickly, because we’re sure that every sentence and every phrase was very carefully selected for this portion. They had to decide exactly what elements of the history were included here and what they wanted to emphasize, because this whole thing easily could’ve become very long. We’ll talk at the end about how George Perez’s run in the comics, for instance, gave quite a bit more detail about the Mount Olympus drama and the creation of the Amazons. But after we run through Hippolyta’s narration, we’ll make a few comments about it and then we’ll also touch on the music and some of the connections to comic books.
So here is what Hippolyta says:
Long ago, when time was new, and all of history was still a dream, the gods ruled the Earth, Zeus king among them. Zeus created beings over which the gods would rule. Beings created in his image. Fair and good, strong and passionate. He called his creation Man. And Mankind was good. But Zeus’s son grew envious of mankind and sought to corrupt his father’s creation. This was Ares, the God of War. Ares poisoned men’s hearts with jealousy and suspicion. He turned them against one another. And war ravaged the Earth. So the gods created us, the Amazons, to influence Men’s hearts with love and restore peace to the Earth. And for a brief time, there was peace.
And then Antiope continues:
But it did not last. Your mother, the Amazon queen, led a revolt that freed us all from enslavement. When Zeus led the gods to our defense, Ares killed them one by one until only Zeus himself remained. Zeus used the last of his power to stop Ares, striking such a blow the God of War was forced to retreat. But Zeus knew that one day Ares might return to finish his mission, an endless war, where mankind would finally destroy themselves and us with them. So Zeus left us a weapon, one powerful enough to kill a god. With his dying breath Zeus created this island to hide us from the outside world, somewhere Ares could not find us. And all has been quiet ever since.
So from this history lesson, we get seven distinct eras:
- Earth and the gods before Man;
- Earth and the gods with Man, when all was good;
- Corruption and a ravaging war;
- A brief time of peace after the Amazons were created;
- Enslavement of the Amazons;
- The Amazon revolt and the battle amongst the gods;
- A weakened Ares and the Amazons protected on the island.
Although this history is based around the Greek gods of Mount Olympus, there are some clear Judeo-Christian overtones woven into the narration. For example, they say Zeus created man “in his image.” And saying that at first, things were “good,” these phrasings are similar to the book of Genesis in the Bible. The shot of Zeus, with light emanating from his palm down onto the world is also a sort of Christian image, made famous by Michaelangelo. Another connection is that the corrupting influence of Ares is akin to the fall of man, which in the Christian tradition was spurred on by the serpent or Satan, tricking Adam and Eve into eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. So in that Christian story, it is partially Adam and Eve’s own fault for falling from the grace of the Garden of Eden, which from that point onward is off limits to mankind, its gates protected by a flying flaming sword. In Hippolyta’s story, the blame for corruption falls squarely on Ares -- it does not seem to be man’s own fault. Though we have to keep in mind that this is the way she’s telling the story to an eight-year-old girl; it may not be exactly how it actually happened. Later Hippolyta says that men are too easily corrupted, so this kind of implies a shared blame -- Ares for corrupting them, but men for allowing themselves to be so easily corrupted, like men almost wanted to shift toward their baser instincts. This is also similar to Steve Trevor’s conclusion near the end, when he recognizes that everyone is to blame, including himself. In this way, you might view Steve as the Adam of the story in the battle between gods for the soul of Mankind.
So we have some connections between the Olympian gods and the Judeo-Christian myths. And because we end up seeing Ares in the flesh, this would seem to confirm the Olympian creation story as the real one in the DCEU. And then we can explain the existence of Christianity in this universe, such as the church and the priest in Smallville, as being based on Christian interpretations of the creation story. Zeus becomes God or Yahweh, Ares becomes Satan, the creation of Man becomes the book of Genesis, Mount Olympus becomes Heaven, and the part where Zeus dies is lost in translation.
But yeah, we did want to point that out --- not only did Hippolyta say that Ares killed all the other gods, but she also said that Zeus died. The exact line was, “with his dying breath, Zeus created this island.” So that makes it pretty clear that Ares is the only god remaining, although later in the movie we’ll find out that Diana herself is a demigod. And because Zeus is gone, that makes it so that Diana really has to be the one to take out Ares -- there is no hope of Zeus coming in to help out at the end; no Zeus ex machina, so to speak.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the gods and goddesses are actually all dead. Again, this is a story being told to an eight-year-old. So it might not be perfectly accurate, and Hippolyta and Antiope might not actually know all the details of the ultimate fates of the gods. So it is still possible that some gods or demigods are still around somewhere and they could show up in future films. For example, I’d really like to see Circe as a villain in a future Wonder Woman film, and there’s certainly ways to write around this history lesson, if they want to. In the comics, gods can be killed and brought back many different ways, so there are always possibilities. There is also the matter of Enchantress and Incubus from Suicide Squad -- they refer to themselves as gods, and maybe they are from a different group of gods, not those from Mount Olympus. I’m not sure, but we can pick up that thread in our Suicide Squad analysis.
In Wonder Woman, Hippolyta’s and Antiope’s narration also has connections to the theme of this movie about the good and the bad both being present in humanity. They talk about Mankind being “fair and good, strong and passionate,” these being the traits passed on by Zeus. And then they talk about jealousy, suspicion, and war, things that were brought about by Ares. Thus we have the duality of humanity, and Diana will have to learn that she can’t just kill Ares and return mankind to the era of peace and serenity; that duality will always exist now and it’s a matter of making the choice to stand with the side of love and compassion. And the words the writers used in this history lesson are not by accident. In George Perez’s first volume of the Wonder Woman reboot, he also described the Amazons as strong, brave, compassionate. So they represented the highest ideals of mankind, and those characteristics exist in mankind too, men and women, and it was the Amazons’ role to inspire those characteristics in others, like Diana did in Steve by the end. We’ll have more on the Perez comics in a bit. And as we mentioned in a previous episode, there is some connection to Batman v Superman here because Bruce Wayne ends up also realizing that “men are still good,” even amidst their negative acts, they can rebuild, they can do better. These similar conclusions reached by Bruce and Diana are a deep basis for connection between the two characters.
And speaking of BvS, this history lesson in Wonder Woman sheds some doubt on Lex’s knowledge of the history of Greek Gods. Given Hippolyta’s description, it doesn’t seem plausible that Zeus actually sought to destroy mankind, only to be thwarted by Prometheus. And Lex’s inaccurate retelling of events, probably based on mankind’s own misunderstanding of the history, gets a good eye roll from Diana in Lex’s party scene.
Okay, back to Scene 3 -- importantly, it is Antiope who actually tells Diana about the final battle with Ares, the possibility of Ares’ return, and the godkiller. She is giving Diana more information than Hippolyta wanted her to have, and this will lead to Scene 4 where Diana asks Hippolyta about the godkiller. And the two women are showing Diana different kinds of love. Hippolyta is a nurturer and a comforter. Her love is like a shield, protecting Diana from danger. Antiope is pushing Diana forward; her love is like a sword, giving her the power to stand up to the threat.
We also need to talk a bit about Ares, because as a villain, this is the most we see him or learn about him until the very end of the movie. In between, all we hear is Diana’s thoughts about him, many of which are mistaken. So this history lesson establishes that Ares is a son of Zeus, and he grew envious of Man so he sought to corrupt Zeus’s creation. So the gods themselves are far from perfect -- they have baser instincts like envy. And by the way, I was very happy to see that Allan Heinberg in writing this scene was actually careful to distinguish envy and jealousy, because so many people conflate those two emotions. Envy is the coveting of that which someone else has. Jealousy is the fear or anger at someone taking or encroaching in on something that you feel is yours. So if you desire your neighbor’s wife, that’s envy. If you fear that your wife and your neighbor are getting a bit too friendly, that’s jealousy. In the history lesson, Ares is called envious and mankind ends up being jealous after Ares corrupts them. Why was Ares envious? It must be because Mankind has something that Ares desired. I think the most likely thing is that Mankind had happiness and goodness and also the affections of Zeus, and Ares wanted those things, so he was envious. The corruption that Ares spurred is definitely akin to Satan or Lucifer, as we mentioned above, but the reason for the betrayal is a bit different. Lucifer’s main cause is often described as pride and a desire to usurp God. Ares’s main cause here is described as envy and a desire to corrupt Zeus’s creation, to undercut it and turn it into a failed experiment, so to speak.
We also get to see Ares in this scene. Because it’s a stylized illustration, we don’t know if it truly represents his physical appearance, but it gives an initial impression, and the helmet does end up being very similar to what we’ll see at the end of the movie. In this painting, though, there is more color in the costume with some dark blues together with the grays, and also a hint of dark red, I believe. The blue is a connection to the comics, but at the end it ends up being mostly blacks and grays as he builds his suit out of the metal around him.
Ares is shown to be initially very powerful, because he can defeat so many of the gods, but he is then weakened, which is maybe just enough of an opening for Diana to have a chance. This narration also makes it clear that Ares has the ultimate goals of corrupting men and spurring an endless war, so these ideas stick with Diana all the way through, and because they were spoken by her trusted mentors, they undercut Ares’s efforts later to try to win Diana over to his side. Also, the references in the history lesson to the death and violence and the war that “ravaged the Earth” are clear foreshadowings of World War 1. And the way they showed Zeus blasting Ares with a bolt of lightning, with Zeus framed on the left and slightly above Ares, and Ares getting hit down and to the right. This is a preview of the final blast that Diana will use to defeat Ares at the end of the movie, and in both, Ares is placed in the inferior position, reinforcing the theme that love is more powerful than hate.
With regard to the Amazons, there isn’t a lot of detail here. We see them coming out of the water, which connects to the shell-based design motif that we described earlier and which we’ll see again later. And we learn about their positive attributes and their former mission to inspire the good in Mankind, before they were isolated on their island as a form of protection from Ares. Noticeably, the history lesson does not include Aphrodite or Athena or Artemis by name, goddesses who are usually pretty important in the creation of the Amazons. This reduces the role of the goddesses but it also sets up the Amazons as a female counterpart to the male gods, Zeus and Ares (who seem to be regularly mired in aggression or jealousy or infidelity). So in that sense it elevates the Amazons as the primary immortal women, rather than the women who are underneath the Olympian goddesses. And probably, the focus on Zeus and Ares was more of a practical matter because of time constraints for the movie, they really wanted to keep the eye on the ball and only introduce the characters that were going to matter later in the plot of the movie -- Zeus as Diana’s father and Ares as the main villain at the end.
And if you look closely, they actually did leave in a subtle opening for Aphrodite or Athena to have a role -- because Hippolyta said that “the gods” created the Amazons, not just Zeus. So this allows for the comic book origins to still be true, and in the comics it is usually the goddesses who have the biggest role in the creation of The Amazons. For instance, let’s talk a bit about the George Perez reboot in the 1980s, specifically Volume 1, entitled Gods and Mortals, which seems to be one of the main graphic novels influencing the movie. In that graphic novel, the history is seen directly rather than being narrated by someone in the modern day, and it includes a lot more detail. Ares and other gods are arguing about how best to motivate mankind to worship the gods. Ares wants to motivate them through fear and domination, while Artemis and others are proposing that mankind be inspired to worship through love. In order to engender this love and goodwill, Artemis and some of the goddesses want to create the Amazons as a model for and positive influence on mankind. So Perez was really exploring issues of parenting and religion overall -- fear versus love -- similar to what George Lakoff has written about as a paternal model of leadership or a maternal model of leadership. If you’re interested in this idea, Lakoff has applied the metaphor of parenting to the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States, and it’s pretty interesting to think about.
Anyway, in the Perez volume, it turns out that Ares has a bit of an ulterior motive. He’s not just trying to promote fear so that mankind worships the gods, he actually wants to spur carnage and violence because that feeds his power specifically. A wartorn mankind would make Ares powerful enough to try to overthrow Zeus, which is his real plot. And Artemis and Aphrodite and other Olympians therefore create the Amazons to try to spread love and goodness so as to counteract Ares. And Ares yells in anger, “Hear me, Artemis! Your feeble Amazons shall not rally men around the gods. Man craves war! And with each drop of blood he spills, man feeds me! Strengthens me! Worships me! Soon man shall forget all other gods--and Ares will rule supreme.”
The film is a bit different because although the film version of Ares delights in the violence of men and promotes war, and he builds his armor literally from the destruction caused by men, it is not actually stated in the movie that Ares is powered by men’s war. When he’s weakened, it’s because he was blasted by Zeus, choom!, not because men turned toward the good. Another difference between the film and the Perez reboot is that the Perez book gives a lot more detail about the actual formation of the Amazons and about the victorious battle of Hippolyta over Hercules, then the backstabbing betrayal of mankind that enslaved the Amazons, then the uprising of the Amazons and their establishment of Themyscira. Perez also connects to the idea of Gaea, or Mother Earth, which is absent in the film. The comics show the goddesses going to The Cavern of Souls (which is the womb of Mother Gaea and where the Amazons are born). And the Amazons are made up of women who had been abused by men in a former life. "Those lights are souls of women --- their lives cut short by Man's fear and ignorance."
The design of Themyscira, though, is in many ways similar between that comic and the movie. And another similarity is that the first three named Amazons in the Perez run were Hippolyta, Antiope, and then Menalippe, who are also the three main Amazons in the movie.
Okay, just a few more remarks about Scene 3. First of all, the music by Rupert Gregson-Williams is effective in setting a backdrop for the history lesson and it fits pretty well with the Renaissance style. One thing that really stood out to me is that, near the end, when Antiope is talking about the fight between Zeus and Ares, there seems to be a hint of part of the Superman theme. It’s not the main Superman theme of the rising fifth, C to G. It’s the complementary theme from the First Flight track where we have the C going down a half step to the B and then back up to the C. I’ll play that portion of the score from Man of Steel, then you’ll hear where Zimmer used it in BvS to represent the team-up between Superman and Diana during the Doomsday fight, and finally you will hear the way that Gregson-Williams modified it a bit to fit in here with the Wonder Woman history lesson.
So what can we make of this musical connection? Well, if we take it as I described it, a Superman theme being incorporated into this history lesson about the Greek gods, then they seem to be drawing a subtle link between the old gods and the superheroes as a sort of new pantheon of gods. And Superman as god was certainly an idea that was dealt with in Batman v Superman, and indeed one could say that the DCEU overall has had a common thread of the meta-humans as gods -- a modern mythology, as Zack Snyder has called it. Man of Steel had connections to Moses and Christ, BvS went even further with the Christ imagery and dealt with God versus Man, Suicide Squad involved Enchantress and her brother trying to reclaim their place as gods, and now in Wonder Woman we have the Greek gods and Diana herself as a demigod. So from one perspective, this Superman theme is connecting him to the notion of gods. Another way to look at it is simply that there’s a connection between the battle of Zeus and Ares and the battle of Superman and Doomsday. The musical clip that I played was from the Doomsday fight in BvS, so maybe Gregson-Williams just figured he could borrow a portion of it for this fight between Zeus and Ares. In this case, it might not even have involved Gregson-Williams realizing that it was a Superman theme. He might have just listened to “Is She With You?” from BvS and thought these Superman notes were part of Wonder Woman’s music, without realizing that Hans Zimmer had incorporated it into that piece because Superman was teaming up with Wonder Woman in the battle.
Okay, the last thing we wanted to mention for Scene 3 is that the history lesson paintings are intercut with a few shots of Young Diana sneaking out and meeting Antiope to begin her training. So even though it seemed like Hippolyta was winning the debate in the bedroom, we see that actually Diana won out and got what she wanted in terms of progressing in her development as a warrior, and we also see the personality trait of her doing what she feels is right without letting others stop her. This also continues the thread of Antiope as a mentor for Diana, which will pay off in many different ways throughout the movie.
Furthermore, as Young Diana is sneaking through Themyscira, she passes a white peacock-type bird. The animals were definitely a purposeful part of the Themyscira design. We forgot to mention in Scene 2 that there is a clear shot of an armadillo, and later there will be the bull outside the tower. This shows that the natural connections we talked about last episode are not just about plants and geological formations, but also animals.
We next see Hippolyta and Young Diana overlooking Themyscira. Like Scene 2, this is yet another chance to take in the beauty and the colors of the island. And Hippolyta draws specific attention to it, saying “We thank the gods for giving us this paradise.” This is also a subtle reference to Paradise Island, the other original name for the island from the comic books. And Steve uses Paradise Island in a teasing way after they save Veld.
Diana, though, is not content with paradise. She has a driving urge for more. She asks about the godkiller, the weapon strong enough to kill a god. Hippolyta is somewhat taken aback, because this was the portion of the story that Antiope told rather than Hippolyta herself. Diana asks if she can see it, and Hippolyta begrudgingly nods, seeming a bit troubled. And this is one of the many direct transitions between scenes. In this case, Diana just asked about the godkiller and next we will see them on their way to see the godkiller.
Scene 4: The Many Gifts (0:09:25 -- )
So moving on into Scene 4. We see them riding horses through the city, toward the tower in the center. In the book by Sharon Gosling about the Art and Making of the Film, the production design team talked about wanting to make the tower stand out in Themyscira as the most obvious artificial structure, not built into the nature around it. Instead it juts out and is very conspicuous. It is also distinct from the other buildings in that it is fully enclosed, with only one entrance, which is guarded, whereas the throne room, for example, is very open. When we get to the throne room in scene 10, we’ll talk about how that open hall of leadership is very different from the closed rooms in London.
But back to the tower, it was described by production designer Aline Bonetto as very masculine, whereas the rest of Themyscira is designed to be more feminine in its curves and presentation. The masculinity and its fortified presence is meant as a reminder that the Amazons do have a violent history, even though they have lived in peaceful seclusion now for a long time. We add that Hippolyta herself has a violent history as well, even though she has thus far presented herself as very stoic, calm, and collected.
With Scene 4, the whole thing is basically a setup for Scene 14 when Diana will decide to break into the tower and take the gifts so that she can go out on her divinely-ordained mission. So this is a setup for her character arc, where we see a determined little girl who will later get to the moment where she has to decide to act and take up her mantle. Additionally, it is the introduction of important objects in the Wonder Woman mythos. And this scene is also a setup in terms of the setting because we are seeing that there’s only one entrance, with guards, and we know that people are typically not allowed here because Diana has not yet been allowed in. Overall, the tower is being established as an important location on Themyscira, so we know that it’s going to come back into play later.
Hippolyta says that the gods gave them many gifts, and one day Diana will know them all. This is a subtle connection to Wonder Woman’s typical history in the comic books where each of her powers was a gift from the gods. The speed of Mercury, the beauty of Aphrodite, the wisdom of Athena, that sort of thing. In the movie, though, Hippolyta is specifically talking about the physical gifts that are kept in the tower.
We get a great shot of Hippolyta and Diana holding hands and walking into the tower. The camera is placed directly in front of them, and then as they walk, it cuts to a shot from directly behind them. This sort of straight-on camera placement emphasizes the importance and weight of the moment. They walk up to the sword and Diana announces, “the godkiller.” Later we find out that this is not actually correct, but notice that Hippolyta never actually lied to Diana. She never said it was the godkiller, but she also didn’t correct Diana’s error -- she just let Diana believe that this sword was the godkiller.
The sword is held by a double spiral artifice, which is gold in contrast with the gray stone tower. About this design, like the bedroom, Bonetto said, “I played with the spiral, which is a motif found in nature (for example the shell). It’s also a symbol of progression, of movement--a link from one world to another.”
Diana calls the godkiller beautiful and asks who would wield it. Hippolyta hopes that it will never have to be used, expressing her hope that Ares will never actually rise again. And then she says that if it was needed, it would be only the fiercest of the Amazons who could wield it, “and that is not you, Diana. You’re safe, and there is nothing you should concern yourself with.” But of course we know that Diana is not going to be content to stand by and do nothing. Unbeknownst to Hippolyta, Diana’s training has already begun, and she has this look of determination on her face that is really memorable. It’s basically -- oh, you are telling me I can’t wield the sword. Well, challenge accepted! This was a great moment for the young actress, and right at this moment, we hear the main new musical theme that Gregson-Williams wrote for Diana. It’s a pair of rising intervals, that starts on an A and goes up a fifth to E, then it goes up further to G. We hear it here at the end of Scene 4, which I’ll play for you in a moment, and then we hear it again when Diana saves Steve from the water. And from then onward, it’s used a lot, and there’s a really cool moment later in the battle for Veld where Gregson-Williams merges Diana’s intervals with the Oddfellows’ intervals. But we’ll get to that part when we get to it. For now, here are Diana’s intervals that establish her determination. This new theme then flows right into the existing rhythmic theme, which is most often used for her combat, because the next scene shows an adolescent Diana training with a sword.
End of Episode
That is our analysis for scenes 3 and 4 of Wonder Woman. We want to close by looking back at an idea from our episode on Scene 1. In that episode we talked about the status of Wonder Woman in terms of the end of this movie and the end of Batman v Superman. We said that at the end of World War 1 she had chosen love and to save mankind even with its good and bad sides. And then we said that she may have been disappointed over the next one hundred years that, free from the influence of Ares, mankind didn’t do a better job in protecting the planet and treating one another well. But then in BvS and after that, in the very end of Wonder Woman, she has been re-inspired by Superman’s example and by seeing Bruce Wayne turn from his dark path back toward the light. This sets her up to be more proactive in the world as she jumps out over the city of Paris.
Recently, Doc from Man of Steel Answers also made a post about Wonder Woman’s role in the world and the connection between World War 1 and the present day. His main point was that it’s not a contradiction to love mankind and to also walk away from it, in a sense. Sometimes letting things go is a loving thing to do, and between 1918 and 2015 she was probably still operating inconspicuously as Diana Prince even if not in the full light as Wonder Woman. The other thing Doc argues is that, at the end of World War 1, Diana was choosing to hide her godhood and allow mankind to continue forward in their beliefs about the world. She can even help by using her divine powers but not in a public way, not until mankind shows that they are ready to stand together and accept the supernatural. And all the way up to BvS, she still felt like mankind wasn’t ready. The fact that mankind was so divided over Superman’s presence just showed that they weren’t yet ready to accept these real supernatural beings. But then we have Superman’s sacrifice at the end of BvS, and that turns the tide. Humanity sees the benevolence of Superman and they become unified, and inspired in a way that they might be able to accept meta-humans. This sets the stage for Diana finally being willing to come out into the full light of day, which she does at the end of Wonder Woman, which is a chronologically a little while after the end of BvS.
So check out Man of Steel Answers when you get a chance. We’ll link to his blog in the show notes. And we can add that another indication to Diana that mankind may be ready to stand together is the fact that Bruce recovered from his vengeful state, and he returned to her the photograph and asked her to tell the story, rather than him just doing detective work and lurking around in the shadows to find out the story in secret. Bruce’s recovery from the depths of BvS may also be an indication to Diana that mankind has turned an important corner and is ready for a new century, not of horrors, but of heroes.